Come on, Chinese students!

BY HEATHER WANG
Nov 26, 2010

It’s time to step out of our comfort zone and learn a bit more about the countries we’re in.

When I came to England at the age of 14, I discovered one thing that I had not really expected to find – the limited scope to speak English. In fact, during my first term at Bromsgrove School, I even thought that Cantonese was more useful than English. How bizarre! The sheer number of Chinese and Cantonese around me was daunting!

That so many Chinese students are now able to get away from the twisted Chinese education system is great. But there is a problem, and this is the reluctance of many of them to get out of their comfort zone (that is, Chinese society) and communicate with the locals, learning and experiencing more.

It is hard to integrate with natives who have a completely different culture, and the language barriers make it all the more difficult. But what worries me is that so few of us make the effort.

Admittedly, it is hard to integrate with natives who have a completely different culture, and the language barriers make it all the more difficult. But what worries me is that so few of us make the effort.

The fundamental question is, with increasing numbers of Chinese students studying abroad, are we actually learning anything about the rest of the world? Or are we just still immersed in our Chinese society in another country?

What I see here in the UK is Chinese students speaking faltering English with, after years of studying here, limited knowledge of the country’s culture, politics, and ideas.

The other big problem is that with the Chinese economy growing so rapidly, so many people have become fixated on being able to make lots of money. The preponderance of students studying economics speaks more than anything.

“What course do you do,” a fellow Chinese student will ask me.

“History,” I answer.

“History!? Why?”

I’m always puzzled when my Chinese friends react with such a big question mark when they find out I do that I am studying history at the university. It’s not because they think history is a hard subject for non-native English speakers; they believe that history is a rather ‘useless’ qualification in terms of being able to earn a high salary in the future.

“What kind of job can you get doing history?’ is usually the next question that’s asked.

Please, can we just for a moment not think about jobs but focus instead on what interests us. There is more to life than money!

One Western value that is not absorbed by many Chinese is that people should be judged not solely on how much money they earn. Scientists, artists, teachers, scholars and many others who don’t necessarily earn as much as businessmen should be just as respected, if not more.

It’s time for us Chinese to change our mind-set. Studying in England is not about being bound in our little Chinese society, contemplating how to get high earning jobs.

We should go out a bit more, think a bit more, take in a bit more, try a bit more, and learn a bit more. There is a whole lot more for us to gain by doing this.

 

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Heather Wang, 18, is reading for a BA History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is originally from Shenzhen, China, and she enjoys reading, writing and travelling.